Arcadia University Art Gallery to Present ‘JG,’ a New Film Project by Tacita Dean

By Purnell T. Cropper | January 21, 2013

Arcadia University Art Gallery is pleased to announce the presentation of JG, a film by internationally acclaimed British-born, Berlin-based artist Tacita Dean. Commissioned by and made for the Gallery, JG is funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and will be on view from Feb. 7 through April 21, 2013.

Organized by Gallery Director Richard Torchia, the exhibition will commence with a lecture by Dean in the Great Room of the Commons, Thursday, Feb. 7, at 6:30 p.m. A reception will follow in the Commons at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free but reservations are required and can be made at (Note: JG will available for public viewing from 6:30 until 10 p.m. on the evening of Feb. 7.)

JG is a sequel in technique to FILM, Dean’s 2011 project for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, London. It is inspired by her correspondence with British author J. G. Ballard (1930 – 2009) regarding connections between his short story “The Voices of Time” (1960) and Robert Smithson’s iconic earthwork and film Spiral Jetty (both works, 1970). The new 26 ½ minute work is a looped 35mm anamorphic film shot on location in the saline landscapes of Utah and Southern California using Dean’s recently developed and patented system of aperture gate masking. An unprecedented departure from her previous 16mm films, JG tries to respond to Ballard’s challenge—posed to her shortly before he died—that Dean should “treat the Spiral Jetty as a mystery her film would solve.”

JG advances the aperture gate masking invention that Dean developed for FILM. This labor-intensive process, analogous to a form of stenciling, allows her to use different shaped masks to expose and re-expose the negative within a single film frame. Requiring that the film be put through the camera multiple times, the technique gives each frame the capacity to traverse time and location in ways that parallel the effects of Ballard’s fiction and Smithson’s earthwork and film. The process also serves to restore the spontaneity and invention that distinguished early cinema in comparison to the relative ease and what Dean calls “the end of risk” afforded by digital postproduction.

Among the masks used in JG is one that references the template and sprocket holes of a strip of 35mm Ektachrome (slide) film. Serving to explore the tension between the still and moving image that has distinguished Dean’s work from the outset, this Ektachrome mask is a reference to Ballard’s own 35mm camera, which was given to Dean by Claire Walsh, the author’s longtime partner, just prior to the shoot and which is depicted in the film. The black unexposed outlines of the other masks—a range of abstract and organic forms that suggest mountainous horizons, planets, pools, and Smithson’s jetty—appear to be traced by hand. JG is a work that could only be made using 35mm film, but it is also about drawing and collage and, as such, strives to return film to the physical, artisanal medium it was at its origin.

“Mindful of Smithson’s film of his own earthwork,” says Torchia, “as well the medium’s dependency on the spooling and looping of celluloid though camera and projector, JG proposes a matrix of visual and literary correspondences that pushes previously unimagined capacities of film. The result is a visually stunning, elliptical interpretation of a speculative conversation between Ballard, Smithson, and Dean that reaches across decades and disciplines.”

For more information about the artist, exhibition and related events, visit

Events and Concurrent Exhibitions

Ballard-themed Film Series

The 11-week run of JG will coincide with events and exhibitions in Philadelphia and New York. International House (3701 Chestnut St.) begins a Ballard-themed film series Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m., with remarks by Dean. The featured films, Ballard’s favorites chosen with the assistance of Claire Walsh, include the Russian war epic Come and See (1985) on Feb. 5, the sci-fi adventure Mad Max 2 (1981) on March 1, and film noir Point Blank (1967) on March 27. Together, they comprise a vision of “dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes, and the psychological effects of technological, social, or environmental developments,” which is how the Collins English Dictionary defines the adjective “Ballardian.” For more information on these films, visit

Installation at Fabric Workshop and Museum

Dean’s 2008 installation Merce Cunningham Performs STILLNESS… (six performances, six films) will be presented at Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop and Museum (1214 Arch St.) from Feb. 2 through March 17, 2013. In New York, the Marian Goodman Gallery will present Dean’s large-scale blackboard drawing Fatigues,which Dean created for dOCUMENTA (13), from Feb. 1 through March 27, 2013.

Lecture by Ballard Scholar V. Vale

Additional events at the Gallery will be continuing at Arcadia through the end of April, including a lecture on April 10 by V. Vale, the San Francisco-based publisher of RE/Search editions whose 1984 monograph on Ballard (No. 8/9) played a critical role in expanding the audience for the author in the 1980s.

Accompanying Publications

JG is accompanied by two publications. Key Stroke is a collaborative artists’ book featuring photographs that Dean took on location with Ballard’s 35mm camera and facsimiles of a manuscript by British novelist Will Self produced on Ballard’s typewriter, also given to him by Walsh. A second publication prepared for the exhibition includes short texts by British artist, curator and writer Jeremy Millar, Walsh, Dean, and Torchia. Illustrated with stills from the film, facsimiles of Dean’s correspondence with Ballard, as well as other images contextualizing the project, the book is designed by Dean’s long-term collaborator Martyn Ridgewell.

Gallery Hours

JG is a 26 ½ minute film. It will be screened on the days and times posted below. (The final screening of each day begins one hour before the Gallery closes. )

  • On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, JG will be screened at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m.
  • On Thursdays JG will be screened at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m.
  • On Saturdays and Sundays, JG will be screened at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m.
  • The Gallery is closed on Mondays.

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